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Truck Stalled in WVU Loss

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MORGANTOWN -

If you're heading into the locker room with just 16 points through 20 minutes of play, you don't really have anywhere to go but up.

West Virginia was getting quality looks at the basket in the first half, but managed to hit on just 24 percent of the attempts and the result was the lowest-scoring half of the season.

After 32 points and a hand in all of the key moments of a road win over Providence, Truck Bryant didn't get a single shot to fall when Notre Dame came to town.

His numbers, aside from the glaring zero in the field goals made category, were good. He had a career-high eight assists and committed just one turnover in his 40 minutes of action.

"We want him to shoot at least 12, 15 shots, but they didn't let him and that's normal if he doesn't have anyone helping him through that," Deniz Kilicli said after the game. "Once they locked Truck, we don't have any outside presence [from] the three-point line, so what we did in the second half, we just said we're going to get the ball inside and try to work our way from there."

As it became clear that Bryant was not going to have the sort of impact on the game that he had against the Friars, he role began to change. He attempted just one shot in the second half. This is a player who averaged nearly 14 attempts per game on the season.

It was the first time Bryant had been held scoreless since the fourth game of the 2010-11 season, but in that loss to Minnesota he played 30 fewer minutes.

If the Mountaineers were going to score, it appeared that Bryant had withdrawn his name from consideration.

"He can't force shots," says WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "He has never made shots forcing them. Honestly, we were up three getting the ball to other people. He was really the one who got the ball inside for us."

But just after posting that three-point lead is when Bryant had perhaps his two worst statistics of the night.

Notre Dame had just tied the game and approaching two minutes remaining in the game, Bryant tried to go over top of Eric Atkins to deliver the ball to Kilicli. It didn't work, the ball was tipped and stolen and another three on the other end had WVU facing a three-point deficit rather than holding that same lead in a span of just over 40 seconds.

That was the one turnover.

On the very next possession, Bryant received a pass from Kilicli and attempted a layup, which he missed, along with an opportunity to keep the Mountaineers in the game.

That was his one shot attempt of the second half.

Of 51 points scored, 47 came from three players – Kilicli, Kevin Jones and Jabarie Hinds. Generally a statistic like that includes Bryant, but on Wednesday he was on the outside looking in.

If it were a freshman who came up with the donut, it would have gone along with the trend for this season and the seniors would have been able to deliver tough love. For Bryant to have gone through it, though, presents a different set of circumstances.
"It's hard. Just try to console him as much as possible, just tell him to forget about it," says Jones. "It's going to be hard. Truck takes stuff real hard, especially losses. He's just like me."

Bryant did not show up to postgame interviews. He isn't one to shy away from questions following a poor night and generally is willing to take one on the chin, compose himself and work toward the next game.

Not this time. Whatever he was feeling, he was not up to sharing.

"Truck tried to win," Huggins said. "I really believe Truck tried to win."

That's all a head coach can ask of his players, but in this case, the difference between trying and actually succeeding is monumental for the Mountaineers with just six games remaining in a season that was once so promising.

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